The holiday season is upon us, bringing celebrations, get-togethers, dinner parties, and of course a little indulgence for most people. It is a time when we tend to indulge in richer foods, eat and drink more than we normally would, and lose track of routine or healthy eating habits. As much as the festivities are meant to be enjoyed, they can often leave us feeling heavier, literally and figuratively, which can wreak havoc on our emotional state.
Mindful eating is a simple yet very powerful tool to help cultivate presence while you eat. It encompasses not only the body’s hunger cues, but also our attention and memory before, during, and after our eating experience. When we eat mindfully, we take the time to immerse ourselves in the full sensorial experience of eating. We give our bodies the time to experience the food, to feel satiated and satisfied.
Mindful eating encourages us to be present, savouring the food, noticing the colours, flavours, smells, and textures of the food. Paying more attention to what, when, and how we eat allows us to better tune in to the body’s true physiological hunger cues and make choices that truly resonate with our body.
The practice of Mindful eating is a simple concept but can be daunting for new and seasoned practitioners alike. It is important to start gradually and to always observe a beginner’s mindset. Ideally, you should start with implementing one or two practices then incorporate more as you familiarize yourself with Mindful eating.
Here are 6 Mindful eating tips for the holiday season:
1. Give yourself permission
Set the intention to enjoy the food you eat, whether it be a healthy or unhealthy option. As we all know, when you forbid foods, you often crave them even more. When you do eat those forbidden foods you end up feeling guilty which can lead to unhealthy food behaviours such as overeating and obsessive food thoughts.
Permission does not necessarily mean you have to eat everything that is offered, but it does give you back your personal power which in turn will result in less overindulging. The best way to put this into practice is to start with a small serving of the foods that you usually avoid. Eat calmly, enjoying every bite but don’t get a second serving. You will most likely feel very empowered.
2. Be present
Being fully present can be a challenge especially when you are eating in a room full of distractions such as engaging conversations around the table, listening to music or playing games. If only for the first few bites of your meal, try to sit down, turn off your phone, and avoid conversations or other distractions. Setting the intention to reduce distractions while eating gives you the opportunity to really tune into your body.
3. Observe physical and emotional hunger cues
Tuning into your body’s hunger signals makes it easier for you to choose foods that are healthy and nourishing. You may even notice that even if you choose unhealthy options, you will choose smaller portions or tend to overindulge less. Observe when your innate hunger begins to subside then refrain from eating more. You should full content and comfortable, instead of feeling bloated and excessively full.
4. Slow down When conversations are in full flow at the dining table, it can be very easy to become completely distracted while eating. With this in mind, try slowing down so you can fully appreciate the flavour of the food you are eating. After every bite put down your knife and fork and finish your mouthful. Engage in some conversation or make the intention to chew your food fully before taking another bite.
5. Eat with all 5 senses
Eating is a deeply rooted sensory experience but more than often not we eat so fast that we rarely engage all of our senses. Bringing awareness to each of our 5 senses during eating improves the entire experience. Before you take a bite, notice the subtleties of the food; the colour, size, and texture. Hold the food in your hand, bring it to your nose and smell the aroma, place the food in your mouth and wait to start chewing it. Once you have brought awareness to all your senses, you can slowly start to chew your food.
6. Observe self-compassion
The fact of the matter is you cannot eat mindfully 100% of the time, but you can make small changes to your routine and mealtimes that make you feel empowered and more present. One of the most challenging aspects of any new routine is the pressure that we impose on ourselves when we feel like we’ve fallen off track or ‘failed.’ Remember to observe a beginner’s mindset. If you don’t succeed, try again, and do so with self-compassion and kindness. Even the simplest intention or smallest success has the potential to kickstart a fresh mindset and healthier eating habits.
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